Distinct Italia

. January 29, 2013.

Palio Del Sole
347 S. Main
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Phone: 734-930-6100
Fax: 304-930-0332
Hours: Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm;
Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm;
Sun 4pm-9pm

“I want to go there,” whispered my seven year old son. We were driving past Palio Del Sole, the rooftop cousin of Palio Restaurant on Main Street. I looked up and noticed flags fluttering in the breeze, containers brimming with flowers and people relaxing with friends. I wanted to go there, too.

So my family of four seized the warm summer evening and visited Palio Del Sole. We tried to check in at Palio downstairs before being instructed to climb the stairs which led to Palio Del Sole.
While both restaurants offer country-style Italian dishes, Palio Del Sole operates separately with its own kitchen and distinct menu items.

A charming atmosphere

The rooftop was large and inviting. Casual patio tables and chairs dotted the terrace, some in the open air and others covered by umbrellas, a pergola or an awning. Numerous flowers and potted plants surrounded us. Michigan flags flapped in the breeze. “Oh, Mom!” said my son. “You should write this in your book: ‘I-tal-ee-an music!’” Indeed, retro Italian music—think Frank Sinatra—pulsed from the speakers.

The menu consisted of soups, salads, and pasta, fish or meat specialties prices ranged from $15 to $20. Typical of restaurants on Main Street. We decided to start with Piatta Toscana, an appetizer of cured Italian meats, marinated fresh mozzarella and olives. I then selected Cannelloni di Funghi (cannelloni stuffed with Portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, and cheeses) while my husband chose Agnolotti Spinaci (basil pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese in tomato basil sauce with grilled chicken).

Savory selections

My son and his four year old sister had two selections available on the ‘bambini’ menu: tortellini or penne, each with tomato sauce. They seemed unsure what to order since their beloved cheeseburger and macaroni and cheese were nowhere to be found. They decided on the tortellini for $4.99 (drinks extra).

Our appetizer arrived along with a basket of Zingerman’s Italian bread and olive oil. “Mangia! Let’s eat!” my son proclaimed

The appetizer was salty and flavorful. The kids tried a bite of everything before concentrating on the mozzarella balls. The bread was crusty on the outside, light on the inside.

Our entrées arrived hot, adding to the heat on a warm evening. My cannelloni was rich and cheesy. I found the preponderance of chunky tomatoes pleasing in the sauce, although I wished for more mushrooms. My husband said the taste of basil, spinach and cheese blended subtly in his pasta. The kids received big bowls of tortellini of but only a few bites. They were more interested in the atmosphere, alternating between peeking
off the roof, checking out the plants and relaxing in the breeze.

We finished with peanut butter pie for the kids and tiramisu for the grown-ups. My seven-year-old took a bite of the fluffy pie laced with chocolate chips. “Why can’t I marry this pie? Fantastico!” The tiramisu was creamy and rich, with the dominant taste of cocoa and espresso.

Palio Del Sole offers a special al fresco dining experience. It is only open for dinner during the summer months as weather permits. Seating is available on a walk-in basis. While the food was good, it was mostly the rooftop ambiance that my family savored. As my four-year-old eloquently stated, “I like it here because of the top.”

More yes than no
To avoid wait Go earlier than 7pm and/or try weeknights
Noise level moderate
Bathroom amenities Palio Del Sole has its own restrooms upstairs, but they do not have changing stations
High chairs Yes
Got milk Yes
Kids’ menu Yes
Anything healthy for kids Pasta with tomato sauce
Food allergy concerns None of the entrees contain peanut products, but some contain pine nuts

Katy M. Clark is a freelance writer from Saline.